We’re dwelling by means of a historic inflection level. Black Lives Matter has been described as the largest social movement in U.S. history—and will probably be mentioned and dissected by historians for many years to come back. However how will know-how affect the methods this historical past is documented, disseminated, and taught sooner or later? And whose voices will probably be heard?
Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, a professor of Historical past, Race and Public Coverage at Harvard College’s Kennedy Faculty of Authorities, examines broad intersections of race, democracy, inequality and legal justice in modern U.S. history and thinks about questions like these usually. As the previous director of the Schomburg Middle, the highest Black historical past archive and library on the earth, he’s additionally effectively positioned to dissect what smartphone video footage, Instagram memes, and YouTube channels imply for racial justice and Black freedom actions in the USA.
“Storytelling is nothing new,” Dr. Muhammad stated. “However the velocity and the flexibility with which individuals can harness a narrative concerning the previous—with proof—has [changed dramatically].”
From mimeograph to Instagram memes
Having the ability to seize and share historic examples, nonetheless latest, has lengthy been pivotal to activists and organizers, Dr. Muhammad says. Within the Nineteen Fifties, civil rights leaders have been utilizing mimeograph machines, a low-cost duplicating machine, to provide fliers stuffed with historic information to teach folks on the legacy of slavery and different necessary occasions. Now that course of occurs rather more shortly. At the moment, he stated, his teenaged youngsters usually obtain an analogous message by means of memes on their Instagram accounts.
The official Black Lives Matter Instagram account is filled with examples of how the motion makes use of social media to teach followers about Black historical past, akin to a recent post about Bessie Coleman, the primary Black lady to acquire a pilot’s license.
How actions use tech to show historical past and alter the longer term
“One of many issues that individuals do not usually understand as college students, earlier than they change into activists or organizers in their very own proper, is how a lot dedication movement-builders spend on educating folks concerning the historical past of the issue itself,” Dr. Muhammad stated.
Organizers use know-how in numerous methods, he factors out. Some, like Black Lives Matter cofounder Patrisse Cullors, adeptly use platforms like YouTube, the place she explores points like COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on communities of colour. Dr. Muhammad identified that civil rights activist host Deray McKesson’s media profile grew dramatically after the rebellion in Ferguson, serving to him attain the million Twitter followers he has at present — and he now hosts a preferred weekly podcast targeted on social justice. Know-how permits activists to talk on to their audiences whereas sharing video and images that assist illustrate their trigger. As well as, it additionally makes it simpler for journalists to seek out the best folks to interview and for activists to contact one another and arrange, Dr. Muhammad stated.